The Andy Moment (?) | Open Thread
I can't help but keep reading it as "moment" rather than "Monument." Perhaps it's because I've been thinking a lot lately about how the ideas and sensibilities that Warhol identified and helped put into full motion seem to be reaching their climax. (I think you can make a very strong argument that it's nearly impossible to think about, let alone discuss, contemporary art without viewing it through a Warholian filter.) I've also been thinking, being the insatiable glutton I am, a lot about whose ideas will succeed Warhol's.
Mind you, I'm not joining up with the long-standing, reactionary rejection of Andy's vision (the people who don't yet recognize the importance of his work still have a lot to consider, imho, and will still be lesser for not doing so after Warhol's influence passes), but rather it seems to me that his vision is approaching the end of its reach, at least in how it influences current artistic practice. It's not just the decision in the Richard Prince case (which looks to have a long life ahead of it in appeals court), but the growing lack of interest in celebrity I sense among today's artists. Andy's vision only makes sense in a world where most people wish to be famous.
Celebrity here shouldn't be confused with a desire to be recognized for one's accomplishments. Artists will never lose that (I hope). But "celebrity", by definition, indicates a broad appeal, which encourages a self-perpetuated focus on highlighting those popular common denominators in one's artwork (which is why artists will crank out the same work long past their personal interest in it), which suggests a lack of time for doubt and then depth that might otherwise be possible.
But as the world continues to splinter into more and more self-identified, self-contained universes (via inter-connecting technology), whose recognition you seek out or even care about becomes more easy to define and then, being smaller, handle. The need to have widespread appeal then diminishes, and with it the need to create the same (and safe, because it must contain that signature X factor) work over and over to feed your broad, but indistinct, public. The smaller your universe is the more commited it is to and better understands your vision, and thus the easier it becomes to experiment more without losing that commitment.
None of this is to say Andy didn't experiment or constantly seek out new ways to explore his ideas and present them. Clearly he did. But his vision was one of ever-widening recognition, and, let's face it, because of a combination of high demand and a lack of self-editing not all of his work is as good as his best (which you can say of most highly successful and highly prolific artists, Picasso perhaps being the quintessential example). And so his legacy is mixed.
And more than a lack of interest in widespread celebrity, I'm beginning to sense a growing desire for clarity among artists. We've touched briefly on this before, and I've been watching this evolve for going on two decades now. The approach I saw in the mid- to late-90s in which many artists (almost unwillingly) seemed to take on or create huge amounts of data and try to work through it, seeking systems, patterns, and through them, sanity, finally seems to have given way to a calmer approach: letting all that info-flotsam float around out there as it will but not worrying about it any more. Rather than seeking horizontal metaphors or practices aimed at synthesizing everything in search of some unified theory (hey, if Einstein couldn't do it, why should you feel the pressue to?), it seems to me that more artists are permitting themselves to dig vertically, mining deeper into specific, often entirely esoteric veins. Which may be nothing more than the long predicted return of mannerism, but ...
...I've rambled on long enough. Consider this an open thread on...well, anything really. I've certainly not found any convincing thesis in all this.